Uvalde is on U.S. highways 90 and 83, State highways 55, 117, and 140, and the Southern Pacific Railroad, eighty-three miles west of San Antonio and seventy miles east of Del Rio in south central Uvalde County. It was founded by Reading W. Black, who settled there in 1853. Black and Nathan L. Stratton operated a ranch on the road between San Antonio and Fort Duncan. By 1854 Black had opened a store, two rock quarries, and a lime kiln; he also prepared a garden and an orchard, repaired nearby roads, and built a permanent home. Black hired Wilhelm C. A. Thielepape as surveyor in May 1855 to lay out a town which he called Encina. The town plan had four central plazas which still existed in 1989. Seminole, Tonkawa, and Lipan-Apache Indian raids and temporary withdrawal of troops from nearby Fort Inge discouraged settlement during the first year. The return of troops to Fort Inge and the community's proximity to the road connecting San Antonio with the western United States eventually encouraged growth. In 1856 when the county was organized, the town was renamed Uvalde for Spanish governor Juan de Ugalde and was chosen as county seat. In 1857 a post office opened; it was still operating in 1990. The settlement centered around a mill built by Black and James Taylor in 1858. Border warfare and lawlessness prevailed until the late 1880s. In 1881 Uvalde became a shipping point on the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway. The city was incorporated on July 6, 1888. By 1890 it had a population of 2,000 and sixty businesses, including David W. Barnhill's Uvalde News. The Crystal City and Uvalde Railroad was built to Crystal City in 1911, and the Uvalde and Northern ran to Camp Wood from 1921 to 1942. By 1914 F. M. Getzendaner was publishing the Uvalde Leader-News, and the town had three banks, a library, 4,000 residents, and eighty businesses. Garner Army Air Field opened in 1941.
In 1990 Uvalde had twenty-five churches, a municipal police force, a volunteer fire department, and an emergency medical services unit. The Uvalde Arts Council operated a community theater and local museum in the restored opera house. Southwest Texas Junior College was established in 1946, and Texas A&M University operated a research and extension center in Uvalde. The fairgrounds encompassed a rodeo arena, a racetrack for quarter horses, and stables and facilities for stock shows. Garner State Park was located twenty-six miles north of town. Uvalde depended on agriculture for its economic base, and it was the honey capital of the world. It was also home to a United States fish hatchery. A large asphalt mine was located out of the city limits. In 1940 Uvalde had a population of 5,286 and 100 businesses. By 1960 it had grown to 202 businesses and 10,293 people. In 1989 the city had 14,908 people and 291 businesses. The 1980 census showed the racial composition to be 36 percent White, 63 percent Hispanic, 1 percent other (68 Blacks, 11 American Indians, 17 Asians). In 1990 the population was 14,729. The population was 14,929 in 2000.